The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $10 million to the Geneva-based United Nations Development Programme/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Development in Tropical Diseases to facilitate the development of new tests for the diagnosis of tuberculosis, a disease responsible for some two million deaths a year, half a million of which occur in persons with HIV infection.
The five-year grant in support of the Tuberculosis Diagnostic Initiative will speed efforts to design new approaches to detecting TB among patients with worrisome symptoms. Work also is under way to develop simple and accurate methods to quickly detect bacterial resistance to treatment and to uncover latent infection or incipient disease in persons without symptoms.
"We are a hundred years behind in TB diagnostics," said Dr. Mark Perkins, the initiative's manager of diagnostics research and development. "At a time when increased funding is urgently needed for both research and control of TB, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has stepped forward with a focused investment that will allow tuberculosis diagnostics activities to shift into high gear. There is now the real expectation of bringing improved techniques to the field where they are needed within the coming five years."